Breakfasts, Desserts

171

No-Bake Seedy Mocha Coconut Slice (V, GF)

First post back in my trusty Jersey kitchen! I’ve missed it so. The weirdly yellow speckled floors. The full-sized food processor. THE DISHWASHER. I can’t even describe how many times in the past few days I’ve started washing things by hand and then remembered I can just toss it in a thing that will clean the dishes for me!! No more waking up to a sink full of things I was too lazy to clean the night before. Truly a miracle.

As much as I love having certain things back, it sure is weird being in a real house again for the long haul. I realize like four times a day l have yet to turn off all my alarms telling me about work shifts at the museum and production meetings at the theatre. I can’t remember where I left my bag or shoes or iPod or sunglasses because I can’t just throw them into the same corner of my apartment every time I come home anymore (my roommates totally loved me, can you tell?) I’m taking a big risk if I leave my computer plugged in unattended because a certain member of the household likes to sharpen his fangs on electrical cords when no one is watching. On the other hand, it’s a dream come true to be able to jump in the car and be five minutes away from Whole Foods. It’s actually going to become a problem soon. I like grocery shopping way too much, don’t judge meeee. I’m also growing quite fond of this whole waking up to a pot of coffee already brewed thing. And having a big tv instead of my tiny laptop to re-watch all of Mad Men explore important documentary films. I’ll start my summer job soon enough, but until then I’ve really been getting into having nothing to do. And I’ll continue being a big fan for maybe another week, then I’ll start to go insane and probably begin crafting again. But we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Let’s talk about food. Specifically this recipe. It originated from a recipe by my all-time favorite vegan blogger Ashlae of Oh, Ladycakes. While rummaging in the fridge for dates, I found a container of prunes. And because I’ve been trying real hard to broaden my food-horizons lately I ate one. I was not a fan. Que sera, sera. However, the texture was very promising, as in it resembled a perfectly moist date. Lo and behold, pruney date crust is slammin’! And while I’m not too fond of them on their own, when blended with super sweet dates and nuts and coffee and chocolate, they add a whole new world of flavor. So don’t knock it til you try it, trust me! The greatest thing about this treat is that it’s totally substantial enough to be breakfast, but decadent enough to have for dessert (with a healthy dollop of whipped cream, duh.) PS- if you have a nut allergy, omit the almonds and almond milk; bump up the oats to 1 1/4 cup, the pepitas to 1/4 cup, and swap the almond milk for the water your dates/prunes have been soaking in! Also thx to Emily for being my hand model extraordinaire~

Slice (adapted from Ashlae Warner, via eHow)

1 cup raw almonds
3 tablespoons pepitas
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup rolled oats
1 teaspoon coffee grounds
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
heavy pinch vanilla sea salt (or just normal, I won’t tell)
12 deglet noor dates
3 prunes
2 tablespoons cocoa nibs
1/4 cup almond milk (or date water)
1 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract (optional)

3 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
6 tablespoons cocoa powder
3 tablespoons maple syrup

shredded coconut, chopped almonds, cocoa nibs, crystalized ginger, dried chopped fruit, etc. (for topping)

Make the crust: Place the dates and prunes in a bowl and cover with hot water. Set aside for at least ten minutes. Drain, reserving the water to replace almond milk in this recipe (or for adding further deliciousness to a smoothie!) Blend the almonds, pepitas, coconut, oats, coffee, cocoa powder, and salt in a food processor until it turns into a fairly fine meal. Add the dates, prunes, cocoa nibs, and extract (if using) and blend until combined. Add the almond milk or date water and pulse until the mixture forms large crumbs. Press the mixture into an 8 or 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom (or if you’re me and just moved all your kitchen equipment from one home to another, use whatever you have hanging around that vaguely resembles said tart pan; in this case, a spring form pan. See, they’re not just for cheesecakes!) and put it in the freezer to make it bake.

Make the topping: Whisk together the coconut oil and cocoa powder until smooth, it will resemble melted chocolate. Add the maple syrup and whisk well. (Spoiler alert: this is the BEST and easiest vegan chocolate frosting if you’re ever in a pinch.)

Put it all together: Take the crust out of the freezer. Working quickly, spread the topping over the crust with an offset spatula and sprinkle with additional desired toppings! Good luck getting this to last over two days, but Ashlae assures us it will keep in the freezer for up to 6 weeks!


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Drinks

169

Coffee Ice Old Fashioned (V)

So yesterday I had my last classes at Smith. The final ten minutes of my very last class consisted of listening to people read a scene from the short play I’ve been working on this semester. I’ve written a lot of short scenes before, for this course and when I took playwriting I two years ago, but I’ve never done a fuller-length piece. I wanted to actually commit to something this semester. I wanted to make something that wasn’t food or a drawing, because I’ve made a whole lot of those and it’s time to try new things already! I wrote a 37-page play, and apparently it was not bad at all! Spoiler: I’m very self-conscious about my writing. About my place as a person who does any academic work, honestly. I guess I know the source of that problem, and I probably shouldn’t let it get to me, but that’s not a story for the blog- at least not today, anyway. This is a meandering way of commenting on how pleasantly surprised I was to hear people laugh at the lines I wrote to be funny; to hear someone actually refer to one of my characters’ actions from a scene read earlier this semester; to listen to my professor’s encouraging comments about words I wrote for the sole purpose of just making something. It was kind of a beautiful way to finish my work here. #feelings, amirite? Class ended and I left the theatre building (geesh, how many times have I done that this year?) and had one of those weird moments where I stopped and realized that was it. I’m done. Okay, technically, I still have to write five more pages of a paper and finish up a few other things, but really, I’m done. Done with college. I honestly don’t know whether to cry with joy or genuine fear. Mostly it doesn’t feel real at all. So while I’m figuring out how to feel about the fact that I graduate in -count ’em- seventeen days and then find my way back to Jersey, let’s talk about this cocktail I made last night.

If you’ve been a reader of Spices and Spatulas for a while, you’re well aware of the fact that I’m a big fan of coffee. A true caffiend, as I’ve mentioned. While deep down I know that the best way to start the morning is with a big glass of water, I never do it. If I don’t have coffee within the first 15 minutes of being awake, I start to get a little grumpy. If I don’t have more later in the day, I’ll start to get a really terrible headache. Which, honestly, is actually probably really bad and I should work on weaning myself off it a bit. But that day is not today. Today, we will be putting coffee in liquor (again) and everyone will be buzzing out of their skin and it’ll be delicious. PS- I know the brown ice isn’t the most aesthetically pleasing, but just accept it; it tastes AMAZING. Also, yes, I did I fact use a $1 nip of Jim Beam because I am classy.

Cocktail (serves 1)

3 coffee ice cubes (see below)
1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
1 1/2 ounces Bourbon or Rye Whiskey
2 dashes bitters
orange slice

Make the coffee ice cubes: Brew a strong pot of coffee and let it cool to room temperature. Pour into ice cube trays and freeze. If you’re really on your cocktail game you should make them in this tray; much prettier than the tiny ice. You’ll only need 3 for this drink, so throw the rest in a freezer bag and to cool iced coffee without it getting watery! (and maybe make yourself a frozen mocha or throw a few into a milkshake.)

Make the cocktail: Put a rocks glass in the freezer. Dissolve the brown sugar in 1 tablespoon water and set aside. Remove the glass from the freezer and place 3 coffee ice cubes in the bottom of it. Pour the sugar mixture over the ice, then do the same with the Bourbon/Rye and bitters. Swirl it all together and garnish with an orange slice, adding a little extra squeeze of juice if you so choose. Sip slowly for a mellow but intense buzz, sip fast if you’re tryna get weird. Either way, you just got a bit closer to being this guy.

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Desserts

164

Mocha Whiskey Mousse Pie for
Pi[e] Day 2015 (aka the Pi Day of the Century)

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Happy Pi Day!! Honestly, this is probably my favorite of the food themed holidays. It’s a close race between pies and chocolate but I think pie may have a little edge. This year is extra special because it’s 2015, meaning the date is 3/14/15, and π = 3.1415 (the next few digits are 926, so I could be extra insane and make sure I’m eating a bite of pie at exactly 9:26 AM and PM, but we’ll see.) Since it’s so important that pie be consumed on this high holy day, I’ve been thinking about what exactly I’d be making for quite a while. As much as I wish it were summer, so I could make a really good fruit pie with all the fresh peaches + berries, we can’t always get what we want. So I settled (and by settled, I mean I was perfectly happy to select) chocolate and cherry preserves. As long as these decadent things exist, life will be pretty good. So grab a fork and cup of coffee and dig in! Also read this article real quick.

Check my pi day post from last year for more treats, but also definitely pay attention to what the rest of the internet food world created:

last year’s Mini Cherry-Blueberry Pies (Ashlae makes a lot of pie, she’s a goddess)

Food52 has all the suggestions for savory as well as sweet pies

This Black Bottom Oatmeal Pie from Smitten Kitchen is obviously breakfast, yes?

Buzzfeed has a lot of suggestions, although I’m wary of a pie milkshake..

NPR has featured recipes in addition to a math-y video with v dramatic music (it’s currently playing as I type and it’s making everything feel like a fight sequence in an action movie.) Also I’m not sure what’s going on with their “pizza pie”, but it’s not what I was expecting

Just reading the words Blackberry Balsamic Pie with Sea Salt Walnut Crumble made my day, so you bet I took note of this one for the summer (actually, I “pinned” it..do you hate me?)

I actually originally intended to make a Crack Pie today, but that dream got away from me, so just salivate over the recipe!

This project is called 31 Days of Pie, and while it did not overlap with pi day, I think you understand why it’s on this list

If you’re in New York today, there are some pie shops celebrating with discounts and specials! Four & Twenty Blackbirds is also running a 3 slices for $14 deal~

Also if you want to eat pie for all the meals today, look at these adorable little savory hand pies, this Guinness Beef Pot Pie, and this whole list..but especially that artichoke, kale, and ricotta pie yes yes yes

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to watch Waitress and eat the following recipe straight out of the pie pan!

Pie (inspired by Oh, Ladycakes)

2 cups pretzels
5 cinnamon graham crackers
1 tablespoon coconut sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
6-8 tablespoons solid coconut oil

1 batch chocolate mousse
2 tablespoons whiskey
2 tablespoons espresso

1/4 cup cherry preserves (or berries, if you can find good ones this time o’year!)
1-2 tablespoons cocoa nibs
chopped walnuts and cashews
shredded coconut
1 batch coconut whipped cream

For the crust: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a removable bottom tart pan (I use canola spray) Combine pretzels, graham crackers, sugar, and cinnamon in a food processor and grind until they reach flour-like crumbs. Add the coconut oil and pulse until crust resembles wet sand. Press into tart pan with your fingers, then use the bottom of a measuring cup to really press it all in. Bake 7-10 minutes, checking for the last three minutes to make sure it’s not burning. Remove from oven and set on a baking sheet (in case anyone happens to move your pie, we won’t have no surprises re: removable bottom pan/pie all over floor/etc) to cool.

For the filling: Make the mousse according to these directions, swapping out 4 tablespoons of almond milk with the espresso and whiskey. Or you can use the normal recipe, live your life as you please. Pour mousse into pie crust and refrigerate.

For the topping: Spoon the preserves over the chocolate layer of the pie. Sprinkle one tablespoon of cocoa nibs over the preserves. If you’re good at planning ahead, make a batch of coconut whipped cream, adding a tablespoon or two of whiskey, because yolo and such (I am on spring break after all..) and spread a thick layer over the chocolate. Stud the top with more cocoa nibs, chopped nuts, and coconut. Ready your forks and toast to pi day!

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Drinks

153

Almond Latté (V, GF)  

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This is the time of year where I find myself back in my hometown for about a month: a stretch of time where living out of a suitcase feels ridiculous, but fully unpacking seems unnecessary. So I’ve settled on a happy medium in which every morning I remove everything from the duffle bag and pile it onto my bed. I wear whatever I need to wear, and promptly forget all about it until midnight, when, too sleepy to care, I shove my clothes back into the duffle and move the cat (who has recently claimed my bed as his throne) aside and pass out in whatever free corner I can find. The whole process repeats itself the following morning. I have only been home for two weeks- there’s still time to unpack! I’ll no doubt be saying this until mid-January. Honestly though, who has time to unpack where there is food to be made? More honestly, I have plenty of time, because quite literally, all I’ve been doing since I got here is making cookies. And challah (stay tuned, those of you who have a desire to learn to make or look at many pictures of Jewish honey egg bread).

My favorite part of being home is hands down my proximity to the espresso machine. For years, all we had was one of those shiny stovetop moka pots. Don’t get me wrong, it was beautiful and made great coffee. But it also required lots of care concerning boiling hot steam and what is known as the “safety release valve”. In my book, this is pretty much a disaster waiting to happen. Sure, I’ve had my fair share of baking tray burns and paring knife/finger lacerations, but those are business as usual if you spend the vast majority of your time in a kitchen. And they’re nothing a little Neosporin and band-aid can’t fix. Which brings me to my next point: have you ever had a steam burn? There is no escape. No amount of ice or crying or bourbon will fix that kind of pain. That is why I experienced true coffee-flavored, pain-free bliss when this bad boy arrived at our doorstep a while back, and I’ve used it religiously every chance I get ever since. The following latté is a truly perfect afternoon jolt, even more so when used as a vessel for dunking leftover Christmas cookies. It also makes a great dessert for caffiends like me. Looking for others? Exhibit A. Exhibit B.

Latté

1 shot espresso
1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
1/2 tsp. almond extract
1 tsp. honey, agave syrup, or sugar (optional)

Heat the almond milk over the stove, in the microwave, or in a milk frother. While that’s happening, pull the espresso shot. Add almond extract, and sweetener (if using) into a mug. Pour the coffee into the mug, then top with milk. Enjoy!

 

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Drinks

136

Coconut Dirty Chai Smoothie (V)

I don’t know if I’m technically allowed to call this drink a smoothie. It is cold and you do make it in the blender, but there’s no fruit. So then I thought maybe it’s supposed to be called a frappé- technically a Greek style iced coffee, but American bastardization has since changed the word to “frap” and the definition to “blended coffee drink”. And yes, this drink is blended and it does in fact have coffee in it. But it doesn’t work because “frap” is, in my opinion, a truly gross word. Don’t ask me why, but I cringe when I hear someone order one. I don’t care if you’re trying to sound like an old pro at Starbucks (plz just say frappucino, somehow that’s better), if you don’t know how to pronounce words with the acute accent, or if the menu actually says frap; it’s just always terrible. I’d say it’s somewhere in between “fro yo” or “ho cho” on the list of cutesy food words that make me gag. So I think I’m just going with smoothie, semantics be damned. You can, of course, call it whatever you like in the privacy of your own kitchen- I’m not here to yell at you! Anyway, I figured there’s probably only a few weeks in the blended drink season, so I might as well share this recipe now! Although come to think of it, weeks may be pushing my luck now that I’m about to be back in New England where summer = 75 degrees, so odds are if I make this again I’m also going to need an overcoat. Eh, I think it’s worth it. You’ll see when you try it! Also this is a fully vegan smoothie, even though the cup I used says “dairy”…oops?

Smoothie (serves 2)

5 oz light culinary coconut milk

6 oz coconut almond milk (sweetened or unsweetened)

2 tbsp. vegan chai latte powder

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1+ tbsp. maple syrup, honey, or agave (your choice)

1 shot espresso

ice

Add everything to a blender. Adjust sweetness to your liking and ice according to your desired thickness. OR if you don’t have a blender/prefer your drink stronger: combine all ingredients except ice in a mason jar, close the lid tightly, then shake well. Pour over ice!

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Drinks

120

Coconut Honey Latté

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Coconut oil is magic, did you know that? It’s chock full of medium chain triglycerides, which is science for healthy fats that help the body efficiently burn energy! Coconut oil also can help fight off yeasts, fungi, and bacteria. It helps increase metabolism and can improve insulin use within the body. Not to mention it’s an excellent moisturizer for skin and hair. Superfood, amirite? It can easily replace butter in many baked recipes, but it’s not hard at all to sneak a teaspoon or two for an added boost into smoothies, milkshakes, and, you guessed it- even coffee! Hence this post. Another one of coconut oil’s magic properties is that when you blend it up with coffee and milk it creates an INSANE foam. Like, super thick and pretty café-quality foam*. Believe it. Such a great way to boost energy in the morning or (if you’re me) at 4 pm, when the morning coffee has faded. Enjoy! Also I am aware that honey isn’t technically vegan, as many bees are essentially exploited and uncompensated for their work. I’m not technically a vegan, so I do eat honey.  And obviously there are vegans who abstain from animal byproducts for other reason, and do in fact eat honey. And then there are carnivores who just don’t like honey. So whatever your feelings on the substance, you can go for it or sub agave/maple syrup!

*A note on the photos/general life lessons learned: the first time I made this latté it came out incredibly. The foam was foamy, but it also managed to hang on to that lovely golden color that happens when coffee is mixed with milk (see above photo). Then I made it again because I wanted to share even more pictures of my coconut flavored success and it still came out appropriately foamy, but just, not AS good as it did the first time. So I made another. And another. No dice. And you know what I learned? Some things just aren’t worth it. Did it taste good? Absolutely. Did it still look nice in the pictures? Sure! Just not as nice as it did, but so what! Lesson = stop caring so much about whether the foam is perfect and start caring about actual things (like what is happening in Iraq/Ukraine or how I’m going to pay off my student loans when I graduate next year with a BA in theatre design or how I continue to eat salmon when apparently it’s destroying the environment even if it’s wild-caught). Let’s just breathe deep and blend some coconut oil.

Latté

1 shot espresso

1/4-1/2 c. almond milk (or whatever milk you like)

1 tbsp. solid coconut oil

1 tsp. honey (or agave or maple syrup)

Pull the espresso shot. Place in a blender along with milk, oil, and honey. Blend until frothy, about 30 seconds. Yum!

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Drinks

105

Espresso Martini

Well, it’s happened. I finally found it. The best cocktail. One that involves booze, coffee, and coffee-flavored booze. Now, hold onto your heart-rates because I’m gonna tell you how to make it. But maybe just have one, unless you have a burning desire to wake up on in bed at 5 am with the beginnings of three different DIY projects under you, your computer playing Diners Drive Ins and Dives at the highest possible volume and your shoes still on. Not that this happened to me or anything.

Anyway, let’s make a cocktail.

Martini (from kahlua.com)

– 1 1/2 oz. Kahlua

– 1 oz. vodka

– 1 fresh shot espresso (or maybe go for just a shot of plain coffee)

Pull the espresso shot. Add Kahlua and vodka to a cocktail shaker with ice. Add the coffee and shake well. Strain into a martini glass with one or two chocolate covered espresso beans and a twist of lemon.

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Drinks, Musing

happy national coffee day!

My favorite holiday of the year has finally arrived: National Coffee Day! Finally, a day where no one can judge me about the four-six cups I consume daily! It’s a real thing guys, seriously. Unfortunately, Northampton only boasts two of the seven places giving out free coffee today..rats! Some year I’ll live in a really big city where I can get to them all! I’ll play coffee bingo!

..Clearly I’ve already had too many cups.

Well, anyway, I thought I’d celebrate by making a post with all the recipes I’ve shared here that contain coffee (and just a few that are made even more delicious when consumed WITH coffee.) So, without further ado:

1. It’s not that warm out any more, but you can still enjoy the crap out of a Frozen Mocha inside!

2. Top off your favorite cake or cupcake (or just grab a spoon and go crazy) with Coffee Buttercream

3. Go back to basics and make a French Press Café au Lait to drink in bed while watching reruns of How I Met Your Mother (at least, this is what I’ll be doing..)

4. This is a double coffee recipe: in German Chocolate Cupcakes there’s coffee in the batter AND it’s an awesome compliment to your morning joe (I actually never say joe. Except for now, apparently. And yes, I do sometimes eat cupcakes for breakfast. Aheh.)

5. Saved the coffee recipe best for last: my all time favorite dessert has got to be a Chocolate Torte with Mocha-Rum Glaze. There’s just seriously nothing better. If someone made one of these for me, I’d do literally anything they asked. No jokes.

6. My Cinnamon Streusel Bundt Coffee Cake doesn’t have actual coffee in the recipe, BUT try and tell me it’s not implied that you drink coffee with coffee cake, I dare you.

7. Same goes for Cinnamon Sugar Doughnuts. You thought they’d be just as good without coffee, but you thought wrong.

So, you better at least stare at these wonderful coffee-minded snacks (if not actually make some.) And have a happy holiday!

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Outside Eats

sixty two

Outside Eats: Chicago

Go get yourself a snack, ’cause this post is long and full of deliciousness. I recently traveled to Chicago to visit some of my favorite relatives, and I kid you not, I think we spent 80% of our time eating and the other 20% talking about where we were going to eat next. In short: a perfect vacation. I just have to talk about a few of the places we hit.

1. Glazed and Infused Doughnuts (there are several locations, but I went to the one in Lincoln Park on my first day and the one in Wicker Park on my last day. Yes, it was that good.)

I literally walked off the plane, checked into the hotel, and went to Glazed and Infused. It was the first place I’d ever been in Chicago, and it was easily my favorite. You walk in and immediately smell doughnuts; you just get happy. There’s nothing else to say, you have to smile. There’s fresh coffee and warm samples and friendly employees wearing bandanas (a sure sign you’re in for a too cute/hip experience) and comfy benches and oh my gosh I did not want to leave. Even though it was 10 am on a Friday, I loved seeing people clearly “working from home” as they sipped from cartons of milk and pulled apart a doughnut while on a conference call. If you have to work, this is the way to do it, guys. Luckily, I was with four other people so I could order six doughnuts (yeah, one didn’t make it to the pictures) without getting weird stares from other customers or having to loudly say that I was taking them to a party and not in fact sampling them all for myself. This happens to me a lot. In places like this I tend to order multiples when I can’t decide on what to get. (I can’t decide the majority of the time, if you couldn’t tell.)

In case you’re curious, I’ll tell you which ones I got. And if you’re ever in Chicago, you have to promise that you’ll bring a bag of them back for me.

Terry’s Toffee: A yeast raised ring doughnut with caramel glaze, toffee bits, and chocolate drizzle. Pure candy deliciousness, even if I’m not the biggest fan of toffee on doughnuts.

Maple Bacon Long John: A yeast raised long john doughnut with a maple syrup glaze and a fat strip of real bacon. Not for the faint of heart. Or stomach. (Neither of these apply to me).

Chocolate Old Fashioned: A chocolate buttermilk cake doughnut rolled in a dark chocolate ganache. Without a doubt the best cake doughnut I’ve ever had. Tied with the crème brûlée for my favorite of the day.

Crème Brûlée: A vanilla pastry cream-filled Bismark doughnut with a torched sugar topping. This doughnut. Oh man. I honestly can’t tell you how good this doughnut was. To request one for my last meal would be an understatement. It was incredible. The end.

Mixed Berry Fruit Fritter: They offer a different special fruit fritter every day, which is super cool, but I’m so glad I was there for berry day. Berries are one of my favorite things to put in dessert. Not because fruit in pastries means they’re healthy and you can have them for breakfast (it doesn’t, but that doesn’t stop me), but I really feel like the natural tartness in berries lends itself perfectly to rich treats. And nothing is more rich than fried dough covered in glaze. MMmmmmMMmmm.

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2. Waffles Chicago in South Loop.

Who doesn’t love waffles?? If you don’t, I don’t think we can be friends any more. Sorry not sorry. I’m so glad this place exists. I think waffles are a really incredible and unique food. Although they’re almost exclusively classified as a dessert-y breakfast food, I almost prefer them paired with savory components, be they literally within the waffle or served on top. The food at this place was delicious, but moreover it gave me so many great inspirations for my own cooking. I thank Waffles for that. Unless you’re splitting one dish with a group, I recommend coming HUNGRY. I don’t think this is a venue that specializes in a lack of butter. Or cream. Or bacon.

In addition to the dense and chewy Liege waffle, which came with blackberry topping and lavender butter (Y U M) and the sampler platter, which involved mini versions of the Mexican Chocolate waffle with orange Anglaise; the Red Velvet waffle with whipped cream cheese, strawberry compote, and candied walnuts; the Brussels waffle with blueberry sauce; and the Green Tea waffle made with Matcha powder, lemon ginger cream, shaved pistachios and candied ginger, all of which can be seen below in the pictures, we also sampled the more traditional savory waffle dish of Fried Chicken on top of a bacon waffle with spicy maple syrup. There were already too many things on my plate, but if I could go back I’ll be getting the parmesan and lemon tilapia over a garlic butter waffle and the mini waffle bacon, egg, and cheese sandwiches.

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And now for some of my favorite specific dishes at more restaurants…

3. Brussels sprouts with marcona almonds and manchego cheese at Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba (incidentally, I think my grandfather once called me this -babareeba, not cafe-..weird nicknames for Rebecca ftw?) in Lincoln Park. I actually never like brussels sprouts, but this fantastic tapas bar changed my mind. They also served up some ridiculous fried goat cheese balls, chicken and chorizo and veggie skewers, red pepper aioli, handmade empanadas, and some magical white peach sangria. Was I drunk off three sips at lunchtime? Yes. Was it stupidly awesome? YES.

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4. Homemade pop tarts at 2 Sparrows in Lincoln Park. A raspberry jam and basil (yes, basil) filled pastry with a vanilla bean sauce. The basil made this pastry one of my favorites of the whole trip. I’ll definitely be trying out something like this myself. They also make a mean Eggs in Purgatory (shirred egg in spicy tomato sauce served in a mini cast iron skillet). Yes plz.

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5. Baby back ribs, coleslaw, mac & cheese, and cornbread at Smoque in Irving Park. Wow. This was some rockin’ barbeque. It’s incredible what good food does to a simple menu. Tender pulled pork, unbelievable baked beans, tangy coleslaw, and my first ever taste of brisket! This made me happy I was taking a break from pescetarianism. Sometimes it’s worth it to have a little meat-day once and a while! Also, Guy Fieri has eaten here, and he is a majestic creature.

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And just in case you don’t think that’s enough food, there was more incredible coffee and pastries at Buzz Killer Espresso and the Wormhole Coffee in Wicker Park (yeah, if you didn’t notice, Wicker Park is essentially Chicago’s Brooklyn. I was wondering where all the cute hipsters were hiding in this town, and they were literally all in Wicker Park. I felt underdressed the moment I stepped on the trendy graffiti-tagged sidewalk.) Also, the best Chai latte of my life at Dollop Coffeeshop in Lakeview. It’s gotta be really good for me to not order coffee somewhere, and this is one of those places. Last but not least, ice cream and ferris wheels at Navy Pier. Chicago, I think it’s safe to say I’m pretty into you.

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Breakfasts, Desserts, Drinks

fifty three

Frozen Hot Chocolate (and Coffee and Mocha)

This is a drink I’m fairly certain most people have made in the summer. Nothing better than a freshly made frappé (I’m convinced no one actually uses this word) on a summer’s day, amiright? Until this summer, I’ve always made frozen hot chocolate the same way: put cooled hot chocolate in the blender with ice. It’s always tasted decent, but never full on chocolatey like I’m looking for. Well, I was watching the Food Network the other night (because, as I’ve said before, it’s one of my favorite pastimes) and Alton Brown did something brilliant. He FROZE the hot chocolate in ice cube trays. The chocolate was the ice. I seriously got way too excited. So that’s what I did. And it works. The secret is to make the hot chocolate quite a bit stronger than you’d prefer, then when blending it with milk the flavors perfectly even out. This is the best way to make use of all that hot chocolate mix that’s been sitting in your cabinet for six months! You know you have some. (When creating the hot chocolate ice cubes, I used full on cocoa powder and sweetened it myself, but if you’re using a pre-mixed powder, just add several tablespoons more than recipe calls for)

After succeeding with the chocolate version, I went on to create two more frozen recipes, for Frozen Coffee and Mocha! Yes. Yum.

Frozen Chocolate (serves about 3-4)

– 8 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder (this one is great, so is this; those are Amazon links but you can get them at pretty much any supermarket)

– 4 rounded tbsp. sugar

– 4 cups + another 2 or 3 cups 2% milk (I’ll explain later)

Mix cocoa and sugar together and set aside. Place 4 cups milk in a saucepan, add cocoa mixture and stir until combined (it helps to mix 1/2 of the milk in with the cocoa mixture and then add that to the remaining milk on the stove for less lumps!) Heat on medium low, stirring constantly until steaming. Let the mixture cool for 10 minutes or so, then pour into ice cube trays. Freeze a few hours or overnight and then place cubes (one tray at a time) in a blender along with the additional 2 or 3 cups of milk and blend until desired consistency! Garnish with a toasted marshmallow and graham cracker!

Frozen Coffee (serves about 3-4)

– 4 cups strong coffee (espresso actually works great)

– 4 rounded tbsp. sugar (optional)

– 4 cups milk

Pour the slightly cooled coffee (with sugar mixed in if using!) into ice cube trays. Freeze a few hours or overnight and then place cubes (one tray at a time) in a blender along with milk and blend until desired consistency! This is the greatest thing to take on a commute into work: no chance of spilling hot coffee all over yourself while on the train or in the car (sadly, both have happened to me. Comes with the territory of being a caffiend I suppose..)

Frozen Mocha (serves about 3-4)

– 8 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder

– 4 rounded tbsp. sugar

– 4 cups 2% milk

– 2-3 cups strong coffee or espresso

Follow the Frozen Chocolate recipe. Place chocolate cubes (one tray at a time) in a blender along with the slightly cooled coffee and blend until desired consistency! Garnish with chocolate covered espresso beans!

vsco_3 What’s that black thing in the sugar you ask? Why, vanilla infused sugar of course! Who’s fancy? This girl.

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