A Heart-Felt Heart-to-Heart about LA & Gluten Free Vegan Carrot Cake

21 Aug

As my time spent in Los Angles this summer is coming to an end, I can’t help but get a little teary-eyed, thinking about all of the amazing things I’ve done and seen, and the unforgettable people in my life I’ve had the privilege of reconnecting with and spending time with.  Time has literally flown by, and it feels like just yesterday I over-packed my AC-deprived car and headed southbound in 110 degree heat to the town I left my heart in many years ago.  I remember the promise of freedom, relief, excitement, and a summer to be remembered filling the air, and my wide, happy eyes.  It’s not often I get to up and take off, though my spirit often wants to – I call it wanderlust, and the yearning for a new beginning, new experiences, sights, sounds, etc. rather than being restless and discontent.  Restless, I can be, but I’m often content, so that’s not what I would call it.  And now, here I am wrapping things up, both physically and emotionally; now experiencing that discontent thing a little as I wish for a few more weeks, at the very least.  Instead, I have just a few more days.

Going through my last two months here, I’ve been filtering, revisiting, and questioning, but am happy to have come out realizing I wouldn’t have done anything differently, nor would I trade my time here for anything in the world!  I’m so pleased to say I can go back home with no regrets, knowing that I’ve had the best of intentions and kept my heart big and open,  I’ve learned a lot about myself, and certainly re-confirmed what I already knew about the beach before in that somehow it heals me, soothes me, and always keeps me coming back! The other night, I planned to make a trip to the gym, and instead drove right on by, heading for the ocean instead.  I spent a blissful evening walking in the sand, breathing in the sea breeze, and meandering around the pier in Santa Monica, which is basically a carnival on the water that is brilliantly lit up at dusk.  It’s not the first time I’ve found myself at the beach instead of somewhere else while I’ve been here, that’s for sure, be it Santa Monica, Venice, Laguna, Newport, San Diego….the ocean just does that to me 🙂

No matter where I’ve been, or what I’ve been doing, the common thread in my lovely time here, as I mentioned before, has been the people.  I have some amazing friends that I don’t get to see anywhere near as often as I’d like, and though with some of them it had been months or years, I know they are true friends because everything seems to come right back.  I’ve spent time with friends from high school ( Hi, AP and Brett!), from my days at UC Davis (Love you, Steph!), from years and years back in my Newport Beach days (ahem, TK), and so many more I hope to see and keep in touch with much more often.  I even decided since I’ve been here that I’d love to start writing  hand-written notes or postcards to the people more special in my life so that we can check in with each other and say hi in a much cooler way than with email and Facebook!  The internet is an amazing thing (obviously! haha), but sometimes the most precious and thoughtful means of showing you’re thinking of someone are often lost to quick text messages.  I’ll be getting in touch for your addresses – you know who you are! 😉

I’ve had the summer of my life, in the most cheese-ball sounding, but completely serious way possible!  So many thanks, I love you guys!

I’m positive I’ll be writing more about my time and experiences in LA some more soon, but for now, let’s get into a recipe I tried for the first time while here: gluten free vegan carrot cake…and of course, vegan cream cheese frosting!  It was super awesome, if I do say so myself 🙂

Gluten Free Vegan Carrot Cake Recipe

It’s not often I really really enjoy a gluten free AND vegan cake or bread recipe, since I have yet to fully perfect that art form, but this cake was really delicious.  The flavor was spot-on, from what I remember a good carrot cake to be – a yummy spice-cake with lots of carrot, and the pineapple was a new addition to me, but I think it worked in the crushed form.  It’s pretty dense, and much like a quick bread.  Loved it

Ingredients:

* 1 cup gluten free flour mix (I used Bob’s Redmill)

* 1/2 coconut flour
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Mocha Banana Bread Muffin Cupcakes with Banana Buttercream Frosting {Dairy-Free}

17 Aug

I’m not one of those people who are heavily into the semantics of muffins vs. cupcakes and the like.  I mean, I’ve heard some swear you can’t have a muffin with a cupcake paper, and others that you can’t have a cupcake without.  Sure, cupcakes are well, to state the very overly obvious, CAKE…clearly not to be eaten for breakfast…right?

But then what about the chocolatey, cakey-sweet, sugar crumb topping-smattered “cupcakes” parading around under the guise of the muffin moniker?  I know better.  We ALL know better.  So can we please just call the portable, little cupcake/muffins whatever we dang well want once we pop them out of those cupcake/muffin tins, wrappered, frosted, dessert or breakfast bound?  I’m sure there are other specifics involved, like texture, crackly vs. smooth top, etc., but when it comes down to it, I’ll call it a cupcake if I plan to frost it.  I’ll call it a muffin if I plan to eat it for breakfast, especially if it has “mocha” in its description – that’s definitely breakfast.  Maybe I’d skip the frosting in that case, and then call it a cupcake when I pile on the lightly banana-y buttercream frosting.

Life is so much more versatile when you let a muffin be a cupcake every now and then or bake a cupcake without the paper, right!

Mocha Banana Bread Cupcake Recipe

More chocolatey than coffee flavored, these little gems are more muffin-like in the way the tops puff and crack slightly, but more cupcake-esque in texture.  I highly recommend frosting, but you absolutely don’t HAVE to.  But you should!

Ingredients:

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup non-dairy margarine

1 1/2 cups mashed very ripe bananas (about 3 medium-sized)

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 Tbsp instant coffee granules

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350*F.  Grease or line wells of a standard size muffin tin.

Cream together the margarine and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer.   Add in the vanilla extract and the eggs, beating between additions.  Beat in the bananas until mixed well.

Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt in a separate bowl.  Slowly add the dry ingredients into the wet mixture, mixing between additions.  Add in the coffee granules and mix until incorporated.

Scoop batter into muffin tins until almost full.  Bake about 15-18 minutes depending on your oven, until a toothpick comes out clean.  Allow to cool before frosting.  While cooling, make the frosting.

Hint-of-Banana Buttercream Frosting

Ingredients:

2 sticks non-dairy margarine (1 cup)

1 yellow banana, pureed

5 cups powdered sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

Directions:

Beat the butter in the bowl of a stand mixture until smooth and fluffy.

Add in the pureed banana and vanilla and beat again until smooth.  Add in powdered sugar 1 cup at a time until you reach desired thickness.  Refrigerate until ready to use.

I’m not trying to steal any mocha banana bread cupcake thunder here, but keep an eye out for what might very well be the most amazing carrot cake recipe ever.  It’s also vegan.  And gluten free.  No biggie.  It’s coming up soon!

Enjoy your weekend!  I have some Santa Monica beach time to look forward to! <3

 

 

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Summery Lemon Zest Sugar Cookies {Dairy Free}

6 Aug

Just because it’s August doesn’t mean I’m willing to allow the summering to wind down.  Quite the opposite, in fact!  I’m diving in even further the next couple of weeks, because let’s face it – I have too many more things left on my Los Angeles summer bucket to throw in the (beach) towel now!

 

Summer dresses are more in full swing than ever before.  Car windows are indefinitely rolled down.  Pedicures are sandy beach scuffed.  Hair & cheeks are perpetually breeze-blown and sun-kissed.  Chilly smoothies are a daily affair, and Cafe Gratitude shakes a way too expensive, forbidden love affair.

 Lemon Zest Sugar Cookies

(Adapted from my lime zest sugar cookies)

Tangy but sweet summer twist on the classic drop sugar cookie.  Citrusy, refreshing, and perfect for the hot weather months.  If you wanted to make a grapefruit version, we’d probably be best friends! 🙂

Ingredients

2  3/4 cups all purpose flour

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup non-dairy margarine (ex: Earth Balance)

1  1/2 cups granulated sugar

1 Tbsp ground flax seed mixed with 3 Tbsp water

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 Tbsp non-dairy milk (ex: soymilk)

juice of 1 lemon

zest of 1 lemon

1/4 cup granulated sugar + zest of 1 lemon mixed, for rolling

Directions

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat.  Mix together the ground flax and water, set aside.

Cream together the margarine and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Add the egg, flax and water mixture, and vanilla extract, lemon juice, and zest, and beat until fluffy.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  Slowly add dry mixture into wet, mixing between additions.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary.  If the dough is a little too dry, add in the non-dairy milk; if the dough looks ok at that point, feel free to omit.

Scoop dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap, wrap tightly, and put in freezer for about an hour or so.  When ready to bake, preheat over to 350* F, and scoop dough into 2 Tbsp size chunks.  Roll each into a ball with your hands, and roll in the sugar and zest mixture before placing on cookie sheet.

Back 8-10 minutes until edges are golden brown.  Allow to rest on the pan a few minutes before using a spatula to transfer baked cookies to a cooling rack.

 

Everything is warmer.  Everything is brighter.  Love is lovier.  Ice cream just tastes better dripping down your arm on the Santa Monica Boardwalk.  Twinkling white lights are more charming strewn across a summertime porch.  Laughter with friends is more therapeutic.

 

I wish I could press pause on life so that summer could live on well beyond September and into October…but I’ll settle for bike rides in Venice, and more sweet times to come as August lives on <3

My heart is happy when pretty things fill my weekends and I get to put pencil to paper to create.  The more I do, the more I inspire myself to want to create, which I love!

 Skies are blue, and dreams really do come true…even on a Monday morning! 🙂

XOXO

 

 

 

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Strawberry-Topped Chocolate Birthday Cake

16 Jul

Here’s the deal.  I’m always slightly disappointed (and sliiiiightly annoyed) when I visit a blog and they’ve gone and done something like a “Wordless Wednesday” post.  I mean, I sorta get it.  Sometimes there’s just not much to say, or the photos are so amazing they do all the talking or whatever.  Blah blah.  It’s just that usually when I visit a blog, it’s 60% for the oogle-worthy food photos, 20% for the recipes, and the rest for the commentary!  So basically if my calculations are correct, without the commentary I’m being stripped of at least 20% of my blog enjoyment!  That’s generally at least 80% unacceptable!

 

I like to read about the creation of the recipe, or someone’s workout, etc…(except I don’t like to hear about everything someone ate in a day, especially if the photos aren’t super lovely.  That’s just me.)

So, what else am I probably going to do today but disappoint you all (maybe you’re relieved and you like a break from jabber?) by not exactly following this wordless trend, (since obviously I’ve still done and am still doing some blabbing!) but by cutting it short.  Slightly wordless Monday?  Mostly wordless Monday…..ugh, it’s a working title, darn it! 😉

 

iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiKnooooooow….

 

To be real with you, I have stuff to say.  A lot of stuff.  More stuff than I should say.  But I mostly feel awful because I left town and forgot to bring with me the recipe for this awesome birthday cake I made for my brother’s fiance…future sister-in-law!  So, I guess you get to enjoy it in photos, and I hope you will forgive me for not saying more and not including the recipe!

 

 

 

 

 

 

I hope this made her day a good one! 😀

Happy Birthday (again!), Becky!

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Artichoke Heart, Kale & Black Olive Pizza {Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Vegetarian}

27 May

I’m going to keep this one short and sweet in the interest of the long, gorgeous, holiday weekend!  Things started off a little cloudy yesterday, but cleared right up today!  On to the food…

 

I wish I could say this pizza was entirely made from scratch, but alas it was assembled with the help of Bob’s Red Mill pizza dough mix – Shhhhh!! 😀

If it wasn’t so dang delicious, I’d be sorta ashamed. Or not. Sometimes you just need a quick, yummy, GLUTEN FREE, DAIRY FREE pizza on a Friday night!

This one’s really simple, and dare I say, the BEST pizza I’ve made, hands down, with the help of Bob since I started using this dough mix! Self-proclaimed kale fanatic that I am, obviously I threw it on a pizza, tossed on some artichoke, a generous helping of black olives (LOVE!), and of course, the best thing to happen to dairy-free cheese since…since nothing! Daiya is just waves beyond the competition, nothing even comes close.

Artichoke, Kale, & Black Olive Pizza

(Gluten-Free, Dairy Free, Vegetarian)

Ingredients:

* Bob’s Red Mill packaged pizza dough mix, divided in half
* 1 egg
* 2-3 Tbsp Olive Oil
* 1/2 package included yeast
* 1 package Daiya mozzarella cheese
* 1 clove garlic, diced
* 3-4 medium-sized kale leaves
* 1/2 large can artichoke hearts, quartered
* I small can sliced black olives

Directions:

Follow the directions on the Bob’s Red Mill pizza crust mix to make the dough. Spread dough out on oiled cookie sheet or a cornmeal-sprinkled pizza stone. Poke small holes all over the dough with a fork.

Pre-bake crust according to the package directions. Spread olive oil over the crust in an even layer and sprinkle with diced garlic.

Sprinkle on as much cheese as you’d like (I like to put some down, add the rest of the toppings and then sprinkle on a bit more cheese to hold it all down). Layer on the kale, artichokes, and then black olives. Top with more cheese, if desired.

Bake 20-30 minutes, depending on how browned you like the top of your pizza. Slice and enjoyyyyy!

I kid you not, I made this pizza, had it for dinner, and then both lunch AND dinner the following day. It’s THAT good!

Om nom nom nom…

Happy Holiday Weekending, all you Memorial Day-ers!

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