Master Status.

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oh hey! I DID IT! I’m actually DONE!

A masters degree in 10 months? Not too shabby.

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Somehow, that isn’t computing in my brain… I still feel like I need to be doing something. I’m sure you know the feeling? But… I don’t! I’m taking a mini break from adulting, so the biggest decisions I have to currently make are a) am I going to go work out (answer: pretty much always yes) and b) what will I eat afterward?

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My presentation went well, and it felt really good to end on a high note! I’m officially a master? Or something. Ha.

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But! I now have more time and mental energy to blog and make interesting things, which is just lovely. I got a notification today that my bloglet is 5 years old today! I can’t believe it. It’s growing up so fast!! *sniff* … or maybe that means I’m just getting old; that’s probably more likely.

SO! For mutti’s (rather belated) birthday dessert, I got fancy. Coconut milk panna cotta (dairy free, paleo, vegan, refined sugar free) with date caramel and walnut cookie crumble. So good! And actually fairly simple, when it comes down to it — there are just a lot of parts, but they come together with a minimum of fuss.

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Coconut Panna Cotta with Date Caramel and Walnut Cookie Crumble

Dairy free, paleo, vegan, refined sugar free, gluten free — everything EXCEPT taste free. Because these are delicious! And they really don’t heat up the house much if you’re making them on a day that it’s stupid hot outside (not like I did that or anything). Yield: 3 panna cotta servings (I chilled mine in small coffee cups; about the size of normal ramekins only deeper) + extra caramel and crumble left over after serving. Recipe lightly adapted from Kiss my Bowl, here!

For the panna cotta:

  • 1 can full fat coconut milk, well shaken
  • 1/3 c pure maple syrup
  • 2 tsp agar flakes*

*agar powder is no doubt better, but all my Whole Foods carried was the flakes, and they worked fine

For the date caramel:

  • 1 c pitted medjool dates, soaked
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 heaping spoonful of almond butter**

**mine is salted; I like the salty-sweet combo so you may want to add a pinch of salt if yours isn’t

For the walnut cookie crumble:

  • 1/2 c raw walnuts
  • 4 tbsp cocoa powder / cacao powder
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • splash of maple syrup
  • pinch of salt

In a saucepan over medium heat, warm the coconut milk until it steams. Whisk in the maple syrup and bring just barely to a boil. Whisk in the agar flakes and let cook for just about 5 minutes, still barely boiling/high simmering. Remove from heat and let stand in the pan, whisking occasionally, for another 5 minutes. Once cooled slightly, pour into molds of choice (I used small coffee mugs that are deeper and slightly less wide than a standard ramekin; ramekins are just fine if you have them!). Let cool on the counter until your fridge can handle it, then let them set up in the fridge for at least an hour.

While the panna cottas are chilling, use a food processor or a vitamix to make the date caramel. Pour the dates and a few tablespoons of their soaking water into the implement of choice, add vanilla and almond butter, and blend till smooth (or chunky. you do you!). Store in a jar in the fridge until needed.

I made the cookie crumble in the same vitamix as the date caramel without cleaning it overmuch, which worked totally fine. Add walnuts, cocoa powder, vanilla, maple, and salt and whiz away until it’s crumbly. Store in a jar in the fridge until needed!

The panna cottas should be firm to the touch on top and have lost most of their jiggle by the time they’re ready. Run a knife around the edge of the ramekin or coffee cup, and they should flip right out onto a plate. Top with excessive amounts of date caramel and cookie crumble for maximum effect, and indulge accordingly!

Any leftover date caramel (who are you?!) and cookie crumble keeps well in the fridge for at least a week (but I dare you to make it last that long).

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Birthday Excess

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Happy Birthday to meeeeee!!!

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I made my own dessert. Is that weird?! I have no idea. I’m weird, so it’s probably fitting, right??

Besides, not much has changed:

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Yep. As my mom says, “To our sweet girl (who still attacks dessert with dedication and gusto–and looks just as cute doing it!!) Happy 24th Birthday!
Much much Love, Mom and Dad”. That’s fairly accurate, don’t you think?! And I know for a fact I still make that face…

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I’ve always wanted to make choux pastry. So I did!! Forget cake. I love it and whatnot, but it’s my birthday so I’m playing by my own rules. Besides, all you really need to do is makes something delicious that you can put a candle on. Because birthdays are definitely NOT birthdays without smelling candle smoke. Nothing reminds me more of a birthday than smoking candles!

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My birthday rules are thus (and I just made them up soooo they’re going to apply from now on):

1. Excess is required.
2. Jazzercise is an excellent way to start the day and possibly offset the excesses of dessert that will happen.
3. SPRINKLES.
4. Desserts must be excessive. Because… see rule number 1.

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I think these are spot on. And I DID go to jazzercise yesterday morning which was fab and sweaty as usual and then I went and ate at least a cookie if not two (whoops, not quite sure how that happened) and then I ran around more and then I made these. And then I ate them! Muahahha.

24 is going to be excellent.

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Chouquettes with Vegan Banana Cookie Dough Ice Cream + Salted Date Caramel

Wow really?? Could that title be any longer?? But it’s my birthday sooooo I can do whatever I want, up to and including making excessive desserts that are actually refined sugar free! Because that’s how I roll. Healthy indulgences in celebration of turning 24. Wheeee!! There is gluten, butter, and sprinkles in this. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Chouquettes are lightly adapted from David Lebovitz (amazing!!), here. The date caramel is my own brainchild and the vegan banana ice cream is just embarrassingly easy… I made a half batch of chouquettes, which yielded 10. Recipe as listed yields 25 ish. And obvs made extra caramel and ice cream, obvs. These are also excellent stuffed with real ice cream… or pretty much anything.

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For the chouquettes (which makes me feel really sophisticated to say, even if I mangle the pronunciation):

  • 1 c water
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 2 tsp coconut sugar
  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into chunks
  • 1 c whole wheat pastry flour
  • 4 eggs, at room temp
  • optional: chocolate chippies! I did them in half the batter

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 425.

In a medium saucepan, heat water, salt, sugar, and butter, stirring often, until the butter is melted and the water starts to boil. Remove from heat and immediately stir in the entire amount of flour, stirring until the dough is incorporated and begins to pull away from the sides of the pan (it should clump up into a big blob). Let cool for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally to release heat. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until dough is silky and smooth. If adding chocolate chips, let the dough cool completely before adding them. If not, begin dropping dough onto the prepared cookie sheet (I found that a single large spoon worked well), about 2 tbsp’s worth per blob. They’ll spread just a little so don’t put them too close together. Bake for 35 minutes, until puffed and golden. Remove to a cooling rack and serve warm or at room temp. Freeze any leftovers (or really, just eat them immediately).

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For the vegan banana cookie dough “ice cream”:

  • several frozen bananas (however many you need depends on the amount of peeps you’re serving)
  • a good splash of plain almond milk
  • 1+ tsp vanilla
  • a dash of cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp (ish) peanut butter

Blenderize all that good stuff in a food processor until creamy. The bananas magically turn into this great ice cream-like consistency!! Like magic. So wonderful and happily guilt free. You can flavor this however you like, I usually use about 1 banana per person, and freeze them in chunks for easy blending. Eat immediately! It’s best fresh.

Then throw all this in the food processor [dry ingredients first, then the wet until it all comes together] :

  • 1 c raw cashews
  • 1/2 c rolled oats
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/6 c dark chocolate chips
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • 2 tbsp pure maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp unsalted almond butter
  • excessive amounts of sprinkles. ha.

Et voila! Vegan, refined sugar free funfetti cookie dough. Muahahha. Mix it into your banana soft serve and be really happy about life.

THEN.

Make salted date caramel:

Soak 1 c of pitted dates in boiling water for at least 5 minutes.

Chuck them all into the food processor, followed by a judicious about of vanilla + unsweetened almond milk + a pinch of sea salt + giant heaping blog of almond butter and blendy blend blend until it’s all smooth.

AND THEN.

Stuff the cookie dough banana deliciousness into a chouquette, top with a ridiculous amount of date caramel, and more sprinkles. Because… it’s your birthday. Or at least it’s mine. So you have an excuse to indulge anyway ;)

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There is drool on my keyboard

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Before I get into all the sweets nonsense… this was this morning’s harvest. I love love love having growing things in my backyard!! The baby strawberries went into buckwheat cereal alongside their pallies blueberries and kale and zucchini and carrots and coconut and sun butter and chia+hemp seeds and all the other ridiculous things I put in my breakfast cereals… But anyway.

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I warned you about the sweets excess, no?!

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Jill and I managed to whip out a batch of coconut milk ice cream with salted almond date caramel and pecans (droooool), a double batch of peanut butter coconut carob chip cookies, and a grain free raspberry polenta cake. In 4 hours. Boom. And we ate lunch in there somewhere, and Jill made this epic quinoa pizza crust just before I came over so that was also lunch.

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But guys.

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THIS ICE CREAM.

I just….

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Drool.

Want.

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Actually, I think this is the first time I have actually made ice cream!! I mean, I did it once at girly scout day camp, but I hardly think that counts (though I do remember it being delicious). I’ve also made it in that silly way of putting rock salt and ice in a plastic baggie and shaking cream around until it sort of resembles ice cream but HELLO that is so NOT as good as this business. This is… I have no words. Just drool.

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AND. Not only that, but this ice cream is dairy free!! And gluten free!!! And quite possibly paleo?! And refined sugar free!! And vegan!!! Extra exclamation points!!! I think food allergies are super lame so here is a tummy-friendly ice cream for [nearly] everyone! YAY!

I got really excited in that last paragraph, sorry… but seriously. This ice cream.. mmmm.

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ALSO ALSO ALSO!!!! I just made these amazing vegan lentil enchiladas with my friend Britt so they’re going up next. Because they’re really freakin’ amazing. Holy moly. Could it be?? Something savory?! No. Surely not. I must have hallucinated from too much ice cream…

Coconut Ice Cream with Salted Almond Date Caramel and Pecans

Recipe gratefully borrowed from Sweet Miscellany, here! I adapted the date caramel and pecans slightly to my taste. Makes about 5-6 servings, but is best the day it’s made (it starts to get a bit hard after a day or two), so go ahead and indulge with some friends. Either way, let it sit out for a few minutes (like 5) before serving–it will scoop a bit better. Gluten free, refined sugar free, paloe, vegan, and dairy free!

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For the ice cream base:

  • 2 cans full-fat, organic coconut milk
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 c pure maple syrup (I use grade B, I like the flavor better in baked goods or sweets)
  • 1 tbsp plain vodka

For the caramel:

  • roughly 20 good sized medjool dates, pitted (soaked if necessary)
  • 2 heaping tbsp salted almond butter
  • a good pinch of sea salt
  • 1.5 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2-4 tbsp unsweetened almond milk, to thin it out a bit

For the pecans:

  • 1 tsp coconut oil
  • heaping cup of pecans, chopped

Get ready to drool: In a large bowl, whisk together all of the ingredients for the base. Cover and chill in the fridge either overnight or for fourish hours.

While the base is chilling, make pecans and caramel! For the pecans, heat coconut oil in a medium skillet over medium-low heat. Toss in pecans and toast, shaking the pan occasionally. You’ll be able to smell the delicious toastiness once they get close to being done—should only be around 5 minutes after the oil is heated.

For the caramel, truck out your trusty food processor. Soak your dates in hot water to soften them if necessary. Once they’re soft, toss them into the food processor and pulse until they form a rough paste. Add in almond butter, vanilla, and sea salt, and pulse to combine. Add almond milk as necessary to thin it out a bit—you don’t want it too thin, but thick enough that it’s spreadable. Set aside when it’s to your liking.

Once the base is done chilling, bust out your ice cream maker! Jill has a really cool one.. mine is OLD school. Like, hand crank. So… we used Jill’s! Chill the insert in the freezer if needed. Toss it all in and churn according to the ice cream maker’s instructions (or if you can’t find them, like Jill and I, just use your best judgement ;). Once the ice cream gets to a ‘soft serve’ consistency—meaning that if you stick a finger in there (or a spoon, pst whatever civilized), you should be able to scoop some up without it being too runny. Stir in about 3/4 of the pecans. Once the pecans are incorporated, spread a layer of ice cream into whatever you’re storing it in (I used a tall, round container; Jill’s was flat and square–either is fine), followed by generous dollops of caramel and a sprinkle of pecans. Repeat, swirling the ice cream together with the caramel dollops, until all the ice cream and caramel (and pecans) are combined. Cover and freeze until firm—for easier scooping, freeze until *just* firm. Let sit out a bit before scooping!

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Math is only fun when there are cookies on one side of the equal sign

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Whoops… I baked.

Um really though? Like that’s any surprise at all, you all know me far too well.

And whatever, it’s the holidays and I can’t help it!! It’s like… wired into my synapses that as soon as it gets cold I have to make things. Not just any things but preferably cookies. COOOOOKIEEEEESSS!!! Holidays = cookies. Just like butter = heaven. Everyone knows that.

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Besides, there are lots of excuses to feed people around the holidays and we know I really like doing that too.

As Brianna the Bestie (BtB?!) pointed out: “Because I know that’s something you hate to do… cook for people…”

Oi. I am so predictable sometimes.

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But not always… I like to spice things up and keep it interesting. You’d get bored if I wasn’t kind of nuts and supremely hilarious all at the same time, wouldn’t you?!

Speaking of spice…

It’s in these cookies.

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Because it’s the holidays! And even though I’m not a math person I’ll give you one more equation (because equal signs really mean balance and obviously your life needs cookies to have the proper balance): cookies = holidays = cold weather = spices. Like ginger and cinnamon. Luckily for you, these have both! So you don’t have to choose or anything… The hardest choice regarding these is probably whether or not to dip them in chocolate. And that’s not really a hard choice because seriously? Why WOULDN’T you?!

And maybe make a sandwich with them and some salted almond date caramel. Because I don’t know about you but that just took my cookie to a whole new gastronomical level. My cookie is in the stratosphere now. Is yours?

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Chocolate Dipped Ginger Cookies

Recipe gratefully adapted from Whole Pure Recipes, here! I made a half batch for a yield of 14 small cookies—I’ll post the measurements for the small batch here. Obviously I made the entire recipe of date caramel because hellllooooo, of course I want extra of that lounging around. Obvi.

Vegan and refined sugar free!

For the cookies:

  • 1 c whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 tsp cornstarch (organic, please)
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1 tbsp ground flaxseed
  • 5 tbsp water
  • 1/4 c unrefined coconut oil, slightly softened
  • 1/4 c coconut sugar
  • 1/8 c molasses
  • 3/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • a bit of extra coconut sugar for rolling

Preheat the oven to 350, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a smallish bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, ginger, cinnamon, and salt. In a really smallish bowl, combine flaxseed and water and set aside to gel. Now in a slightly largish bowl, combine coconut oil and coconut sugar. Using a whisk (I wanted a bicep workout, feel free to use an electric mixer or whatever), vigorously whisk together sugar and oil until the mixture lightens in color a bit. Whisk in molasses, vanilla, and the flax egg, until smooth. Add dry ingredients into wet in two batches, stirring to combine but avoiding over mixing. Roll the dough into small teaspoon size balls, roll it in the extra coconut sugar, and then flatten them slightly on the cookie sheet (they won’t really spread). Bake for just about 9 minutes, until the tops are firm. Remove and let cool for a few minutes, then move to a cooling rack.

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For the salted almond date caramel:

  • 1.5 c medjool dates, pitted
  • 1.5 tbsp unsalted almond butter
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp fine sea salt

Pour a few cups of near-boiling water over the pitted dates, and let them sit for about 10 minutes (while you do the cookie dishes and the cookies finish baking… multitasking, you know?), reserving the soaking water. Once softened, toss dates, almond butter, vanilla and sea salt into the bowl of your food processor, and send that baby for a whirl until everything is combined. Add the reserved soaking water one tbsp at a time, until the caramel is smooth (I usually leave some date chunks in there because I like chunks…). Store in a sealed jar in the refrigerator for about 2 weeks, assuming it lasts more than a day…

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For the chocolate dip:

  • 1/3 c extra dark chocolate chips
  • 1 tsp refined coconut oil

Melt chocolate chips and coconut oil in a microwave safe bowl (or a double boiler if you’re feeling less lazy than me) until melted.

Dip cookies in chocolate and thriftily eat the rest (it’s too good to waste!). I let mine sit on parchment paper on the counter for a bit before transferring them to a plate in the fridge for the shell to fully harden.

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