Just Like A Circus

I believe in the art of organizing. Marie Kondo is my hero. I could spend hours at The Container Store. So now that all of the planet is pretty much under lockdown, I’ve had time to purge, audit and organize our fridge and pantry cabinets. In trying to store all the food we have for X amount of time, I took pleasure in organizing the shelves and FIFO-ing (kitchen term for First In First Out) all of our food. When making breakfast the other day, I had a handful of perfectly ripe pears that I wanted to add in this oven pancake recipe I found. Of course I had to veganize it. Honestly, these oven pancakes tasted like funnel cakes and transported me to a time not long ago where we could go to the county fair and eat all the things.

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Caramelized Pear Oven Funnel Cake Pancakes

Recipe slightly adapted from Williams-Sonoma

Serves 2

INGREDIENTS

6T vegan butter, divided

3 ea. pears, peeled, cored and sliced in 1/4-inch wedges

2T coconut sugar

Juice of half a lemon

1t ground cinnamon

1C plant-based milk (I used oat milk and had great results)

1t pure vanilla extract

1C Bob’s Red Mill 7-Grain Pancake + Waffle Flour Mix

2 T flaxseed + 4T water

Powdered sugar for dusting

METHOD

Position a rack in the middle of your oven and preheat to 425 degrees F

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flaxseed eggs, 1T of the melted butter, milk and vanilla. Add in the flour mix. Whisk till the batter is just incorporated. Set aside.

In a cast-iron skillet, melt 2T of butter over medium-high heat. Then add in half of the pears and half of the coconut sugar and cinnamon, sautéing till it’s nice and caramelized, about 5 minutes. Finish with a squeeze of lemon. Add 2T of butter, melt, and pour in half of the pancake batter.

Place in the oven for about 20 minutes or until the pancake is golden and puffy.

Top with a dusting of powdered sugar.

To All the Employees I’ve Loved Before


ACS_0293This is a love letter to all of my employees, co-workers and fellow hospitality management,

The last few days have been so hard for everyone. When I learned that we would be closing our dining room services for at least 4 weeks on Sunday, I had mixed feelings—part relief that we all had the opportunity to socially distance ourselves and help slow down the spread of Coronavirus. The biggest part of me was absolutely heartbroken what that meant for our 50+ employees at our restaurant. These are the hardest times right now, and I sincerely wish I had the power to do ANYTHING and EVERYTHING I could to save you all. I have no power over this. None of us do. I’ve been crying for the past 3 days because I love you all so very much and it has been an absolute honor and privilege to be your AGM these past 2 years.

I know exactly how you’re feeling right now, and it’s absolutely terrible. Some of you don’t know that I’ve been through a lay-off, too. Back in 2008 during The Great Recession I was laid off from my editor job at a publishing house. I didn’t see it coming. I had graduated from journalism school and was just beginning my journey as a journalist (my childhood dream). It felt even worse because just 2 months before the day I was laid off, my brother died in a tragic accident. I had just come back to work from bereavement leave and was trying to distract my sadness and depression after losing my brother. Obviously everything felt even more intense.

I lived off of unemployment for almost 2 years—applying for jobs, internships, freelance gigs, whatever I could to stay above ground. I worked so many odd jobs during that time, but nothing that could financially support me. Unfortunately there weren’t any more journalism jobs to go around for the other thousands who lost their jobs, too. I even volunteered at a children’s hospital during my unemployment because I wanted to make a positive difference in kids’ lives. That “job” was the best and most meaningful experience of my life, and I wouldn’t change any part of it. It has helped shape me into the person I am today.

After not finding work for 2 years I decided to chase a passion of mine and enrolled at the Culinary Institute of America in New York. My time at the CIA, and meeting all of the beautiful humans I had the amazing opportunity to learn from and work with, were some of the best years of my life.

After graduating I settled in the Bay Area and worked so many industry jobs—food stylist, line cook, pastry chef, food truck operator, catering coordinator, I can’t remember them all. But then times got really tough in the Bay, and the increasing cost of living (and a really shitty living situation) led me to being homeless. Yes, homeless. Luckily, I had such a huge community of friends who helped keep a roof over my head, and I slept on couches, mattresses, and spare rooms for a few months while I looked for an apartment. That proved to be difficult because my line cook wages couldn’t afford me a studio or 1BR apartment. After couch surfing for a few months, I gave up on living in the Bay Area. I exhausted all of my resources, but I am so grateful for that time. It humbled me immensely.

Then I did something absolutely crazy. I followed the advice of my astrologer (who I had an amazing in-person reading with on my birthday!) and moved to Portland. (I had fallen in love with the city when my friend Erika and I vacationed there for a weekend over the summer.) The thing is, I had nothing to move to. I had set up job interviews and viewing appointments for apartments but I didn’t know a soul in the city. I had phone numbers of friends of friends but no guarantees. I stayed at an Airbnb for a week with the goal of finding a job and apartment in that week. Omg I was ambitious, wasn’t I?

As you can imagine I didn’t find work. Or an apartment. But I did meet amazing friends who helped put a roof over my head and some interior design assistant work. But the hustle continued because I needed full-time work to secure an apartment. I applied for every and any job I could.

I did find an apartment during those early days thanks to my amazing friend Mel, who literally took me under her wing and saved me from homelessness in Portland. For that, I am eternally grateful to her.

The next couple of years I worked even more jobs—pastry cook, line cook, prep cook, dishwasher, bar back, host, busser, food runner, server, bartender, vacation rental manager, social media coordinator, etc. I did them all.
All that hard work brought me to hospitality management. Fast-forward 4 years (I still can’t believe how quickly that time passed), and I had the amazing opportunity to manage the team at the restaurant I’m at now. I’ve been the AGM there for a little over 2 years and it has been some of the most stressful yet rewarding years of hospitality management I’ve worked thus far. I have learned so much from every individual from my team, and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity and pleasure to work alongside you all. I am hopeful that we will work together again.

My hope is that by sharing my tumultuous roller coaster of a journey, it will let you know how much I relate (who knows how long I will have my job), and that I will always have your back. I’m here for you. We are a family. What we do during these hard times will either break us or make us stronger. I know that you will choose the latter.

Stay strong, safe and healthy.

With much love and respect,
KR

 

Let’s Do A Makeover!

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I’ve been thinking about the weight of the world right now. The proverbial dark cloud currently encapsulating our planet. Our upcoming presidential election and the possible changes (good or bad) that come with it. I’m unsettled, and the only thing we can do right now is take extra care and precautions to be healthier and safe. To be more proactive than reactive. To vote for the most competent and capable candidate. I’m trying my best to relax and stay calm, but that’s very difficult when you have OCD as I do.

Needless to say, it’s time to escape, if only for a few hours. I decided to watch one of my favorite movies that always sparks joy—“Clueless.” Yes, that iconic ‘90s film that managed to turn a Jane Austen novel into a reimagined fashion revolution.

It’s actually the perfect movie to watch right now. (Did you know “Outbreak” is the 9th most-popular movie streaming on Netflix right now?! So much for escape.)

In the words of Cher Horowitz:

“I had to find sanctuary in a place where I could gather my thoughts and regain my strength…”

<Cut to an exterior shot of the Westside Pavilion>

CLUELESS. Image shot 1995. Exact date unknown.

Fun fact: I know and can recite the entire movie from beginning to end. (I’ve honestly watched this movie maybe 1000 times. Not an exaggeration.)

Cher Horowitz is such a mood right now. That scene where the guy at school bumps into her very persuasively so she quickly pushes him off as she quips,

“Ugh. Get off of me! As if!”

Honestly, that’s how I feel right now.

Processed With Darkroom

On my day off while I was socially distancing myself, I stumbled upon a recipe from I Will Not Eat Oysters for Rye Tahini Chocolate Chip Cookie Cups. It looked so dreamy and delicious, I had to make it. And just like Cher and Dionne gave Tai a makeover, I reworked the recipe, veganized it and then added a couple of superfood ingredients. (Superfood is super important right now, wouldn’t you agree?)

I’m convinced I’ve succeeded because I had left out a container of these only to discover the morning that my boyfriend had eaten almost all of the cookie cups after I had gone to bed. (Little did he know they are super healthy. Bwahaha!)

Feel free to play Jill Sobule’s “Supermodel” in the kitchen while making this recipe.

Processed With Darkroom

The key ingredients in this recipe are:

Walnuts: An excellent source of antioxidants and significantly high amounts of omega-3 fats called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)s, an essential fat that studies have shown helps to lower heart disease risk. Helps decrease inflammation, control blood sugars, promotes healthy gut and helps control blood sugars and lowers blood pressure.

Maca powder: A superfood chock-full of vitamins (including B1, B2, C, and E) with more than 20 amino acids and also contains calcium, zinc and iron. AND it helps increase your libido.

Flaxseed Meal: Flaxseeds are rich in omega-3 fats ALAs, lignans and fiber. It also helps lower blood pressure and may improve cholesterol.

Blackstrap Molasses: Yet another low-profile superfood. It’s an excellent source of iron, calcium, magnesium and potassium.

Tahini: It’s rich in anti-inflammatory monounsaturated fats with powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Cacao Nibs: Packed with flavonoid antioxidants with powerful anti-inflammatory properties.

Rye Flour: High in fiber and contains small amounts of zinc, pantothenic acid, phosphorus, magnesium and calcium.

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Superfood Tahini Rye Chocolate Chip Cookie Cups

Prep time: 3 hours 20 mins (“Everywhere in LA takes 20 minutes!”)
Yields: 18 cookie cups

INGREDIENTS

226g plant-based butter (I like Earth Balance)
200g coconut sugar
50g maple syrup
50g blackstrap molasses
100g tahini
3T ground flaxseed + 4T water
2t pure vanilla extract
150g all purpose flour
40g rye flour
30g maca powder
1/2t baking powder
1/2t baking soda
1 1/2t Kosher salt
1c dairy-free semi-sweet chocolate chips
1c dairy-free dark chocolate bar, roughly chopped
1/2c cacao nibs
2c walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped

METHOD

Melt the butter. Pull off heat and set aside to cool for about 10 mins.

Once the butter has cooled down a bit, add to a mixing bowl with the paddle attachment and mix with the coconut sugar till fluffy. About 5 minutes on medium speed. Turn off the mixer and add the maple syrup, molasses, tahini, flaxseed egg and vanilla. Mix for another 2 minutes, or until incorporated.

Slowly add in the dry ingredients, in three increments, on low speed. Once all flour has been added, throw in the chocolate chips, chocolate shards, cacao nibs and chopped walnuts till just incorporated. Don’t over-mix.

Using an ice cream scoop, portion out a scoop of the dough and place inside a standard muffin tray. Once all dough has been scooped into each muffin tin, place the entire tray in the freezer for at least 3 hours. This allows the flours to relax. Cover the top loosely with parchment paper.

Once your dough has rested, pull out your dough tray from the freezer and preheat your oven to 325 degrees.

Bake 12-17 minutes (depends on your oven). When fully cooked (I like mine slightly gooey in the middle) pull them out and allow to cool for about 10 minutes before enjoying!

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A Love That Spans Centuries

Photo by A Streetcar Named Devour

Original photo by Aimee Spicks/STARZ

I stan a ride-or-die couple. And I’m currently obsessing over Starz-streamed series, “Outlander.” If you haven’t watched yet, the story revolves around our two main characters, Claire (a time-traveling WWII nurse from England), and an 18th Century Scottish Highland warrior named Jamie Fraser. I won’t delve too much into the storyline, but these star-crossed lovers will do whatever it takes to protect each other. It’s a love that spans centuries.

The Linzer Torte (the original form of this tasty treat) is actually much older than our fictitious Scottish Jacobite, and dates as far back as the 17th Century in Linz, Austria. (The oldest known recipe is from 1653!) The name originated as “Helle Linzer Plaetzchen”  which in German literally translates to “bright Linzer cookies.” The much easier to make version is the sandwich cookie, with its characteristic cut-out shape exposing the fruit jam and is lightly dusted with confectioner’s sugar. This version is gluten-free and vegan.

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Gluten-Free + Vegan Linzer Cookies

Recipe slightly adapted from About to Sprout
Recipe yields about 8 cookie sandwiches 

Photo by A Streetcar Named Devour

INGREDIENTS

2.5 C almond flour (I like Bob’s Red Mill)

4T coconut oil, melted

1/4 C date syrup

1/2t fresh lemon juice

1ea lemon, zested

1t pure vanilla extract

1/2t Kosher salt

1/4t Baking soda

1C Jam, fruit preserve of choice (my fave store-bought are from Crofter’s)

1/4C powdered sugar for dusting

METHOD

Combine all ingredients into a bowl. If the dough is too sticky, sprinkle in a bit of almond flour till it’s pliable but not too dry.

Mound dough onto a flat surface and shape into a disc. Wrap in plastic and place in the refrigerator for 20 mins.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Line 2 sheet trays with parchment paper.

Once dough is chilled, unwrap and place between two pieces of parchment paper.

Roll out dough to 1/4-inch thick. Cut out 16 cookies (using a large heart-shaped cookie cutter) and place 8 of those cookies on the parchment-lined sheet tray. (You may need to re-roll your dough to get more cookies.)

Use a small heart-shaped cookie cutter inside the larger hearts. If you don’t have a smaller cookie cutter you can free-hand it like I did.

Place onto sheet tray, making sure cookies don’t touch (they’ll spread a little).

Bake for 8-12 mins depending on your oven. Mine were done at 8 mins, so keep an eye on them and pull out once they’re a nice golden brown.

Allow to cool on a cooling rack.

TO ASSEMBLE
Line cookies with the base of the cookie bottom sides up and spoon about 1T of fruit preserve. Top with double-heart cookie half to expose the jam.

Top with a light dusting of sugar.

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Let’s Twist Again (Like We Did Last Summer)

 

I need to get back into yoga. My body is constantly telling me I need to stretch and to weight train more. The aches + soreness associated with having a job where I’m on my feet 10+ hours a day, where I’m going up and down stairs all day is taking its toll. I average anywhere between 3-5 miles in steps alone by just being in the confines of the building. (That’s upped to 5-8 miles a day during our peak season!) On busy summer days (where the restaurant averages 2-hour wait times and lines stretch around the block like the ones in Disneyland) my body is wrecked from moving up and down and all around. I’m a bit older now (40 is getting closer and closer!) and I’m not as spry as I once was. So I’ve decided that yoga and weightlifting is a priority in 2020.

Another priority? This matcha and black sesame + dark chocolate babka. It is as heavenly as it sounds. The deep nutty and cocoa aromas from the toasted, ground black sesame seeds, and the full-bodied slight umami flavors from the matcha powder with the bittersweet chocolate is a lovely taste combination.

Babka is a dense cake comprised of yeasted dough that’s filled, rolled and cut in half vertically, then twisted and baked to perfection. I highly recommend upping your baking game by trying this easy to follow recipe if you are new to the beauty that is babka. Of course, I veganized it, sourcing a handful of recipes and testing combinations of each one. The recipe below gave me the best results. Share your babka experiences, tips and tricks below!

VEGAN Matcha Babka With Black Sesame + Dark Chocolate Filling

Recipe slightly adapted from Fix Feast Flair + The Little Epicurean 

Yields 1 babka loaf

INGREDIENTS

FOR THE MATCHA BABKA DOUGH

  • 1/2 cup soy milk, plus extra for brushing
  • 3.5 g active dry yeast
  • 344 g all-purpose flour
  • 64 g non-dairy, unsalted butter (I like Earth Balance) at room temperature
  • 25 g coconut sugar
  • 2 flaxseed eggs (2T flax + 5T warm water)
  • 1/3 t pure vanilla extract
  • 2 T matcha powder, cook-grade
  • 1/2 t kosher salt
  • Oil for coating bowl

FOR THE BLACK SESAME SEED FILLING

  • 6 T non-dairy unsalted butter (like Earth Balance or Melt), room temperature
  • 1/4 c coconut  sugar
  • 1.5 T maple syrup
  • 4 T black sesame seeds, toasted lightly and coarsely ground
  • 1/2 c miniature dairy-free dark chocolate chips (I like Enjoy Life)

METHOD FOR THE  DOUGH

  1. Heat the milk till the thermometer reaches 100-110°F.
  2. Whisk the warmed milk and yeast in a medium-sized bowl. Then whisk in 1/2 cup of the flour. Allow the mixture to sit for 20 minutes.
  3. Combine the butter and sugar in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment on medium speed till light and whipped fluffy, about 2 minutes.
  4. Add in half of the flax eggs mixture for about a minute. Turn off the mixer and scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl with a rubber spatula. Add in the rest of the flax mix and whip on medium for another minute. Add the vanilla. Stir for 30 seconds.
  5. At the lowest speed, slowly add in the rest of the flour and matcha powder till almost combined, and then mix in the  yeasted milk for another minute. Then add the salt. Mix on low till the dough starts to pull away from the bowl and it’s fully incorporated. About 5 minutes.
  6. Lightly coat a large bowl with a neutral oil and place the dough in it. Cover with a clean towel and place in a warm area for about 1-2 hours, depending on the temp of your house. (You’ll want the dough to double in size.)

METHOD FOR THE BLACK SESAME FILLING

  1. Heat the sesame seeds over medium-high heat and toss occasionally till the seeds start to give off a toasted aroma (you’ll know it when you smell it). Turn off the heat.
  2. Place the seeds in a food processor, blender or coffee grinder till completely ground.
  3. Using a paddle attachment on a standing mixer, combine the butter, sugar, syrup, and  toasted sesame seeds. On medium speed, whip till combined. Place in the refrigerator till you’re ready to assemble the babka.

ASSEMBLY

  1. Once the dough has doubled in size, place it on a lightly floured surface. Roll it out starting in the middle and working your way out. Roll the dough to a 12×16 rectangle.
  2. Use an offset spatula to evenly spread the sesame filling into the dough. Sprinkle a generous layer of chocolate chips on top.
  3. Line an 8” x 5” loaf pan with parchment paper.


  4. Starting at the short end, roll the dough tightly. The seam should be at the bottom of the roll.
  5. Cut the ends off of both sides using a sharp serrated knife.

  6. Gently cut the roll in half lengthwise, from top to bottom.
  7. With the cut sides up, twist the halves over and together. Cross the left end over the right, and then carefully lift the right side over the left again. Repeat till all sides are intertwined.
  8. Carefully place the dough twist into the prepped pan. Cover with a clean towel and let rise for about 45 minutes.
  9. Preheat oven to 350°F
  10. Remove towel. Brush the babka with soy milk.
  11. Place in the preheated oven for 25-35 minutes (depends on your oven) and till a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  12. When done, carefully remove from oven and allow to cook for about 15 minutes on a cooling rack before serving.

The Kids Are Alright

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Holiday get-togethers can be a bit challenging for us folk who have food allergies. It is sadly true. We are the ones who come to birthday + holiday parties, weddings, showers, potlucks, sulking at the buffet table full of food that we simply cannot eat. We stand there and salivate over all the pies, pizzas, bread, cakes, cookies, cheesecakes, cheese plates, etc., that are hands off. I mean, we *can* eat them, sure, but that would mean we want to:

A) Die

B) Get rushed to the hospital 

C) Be stuck on the toilet for the next week, wishing we were dead 

D) Be stuck lying on the floor next to the toilet in the fetal position, wishing we were able to physically get onto the toilet 

It’s not fun. For us or for our loved ones who have to deal with it. I once accidentally ate a few bites of risotto at a “build your own risotto bar” at a wedding thinking that all the cheeses that were placed in separate bowls at the build-your-own bar were my signal that the actual risotto base didn’t include cheese. I was wrong. I was so deeply wrong. My body made sure to tell me how wrong I was. I was sick for a few days after that, and have avoided “build-your-own” risotto buffets ever since.

For holiday parties, and actually, any party all year round, I love making this Chocolate Chip Banana Bread recipe and bringing it to parties because it’s so dang delicious, moist AF, and is gluten-free, vegan AND nut-free. It’s perfect for adults and kids with food allergies.

I hope you try out this recipe, and if you do let me know how it turns  out.

xo Kelly Rae

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Chocolate Chip Banana Bread Gluten-Free, Vegan, Nut-Free

Recipe slightly adapted from Kitchen Confidante

INGREDIENTS

1 C brown rice flour

1/2 C potato starch

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup coconut sugar

1/2 cup maple syrup or agave syrup

1/4 cup vegan butter or coconut oil, at room temperature

1 flaxseed egg (1 Tablespoon flaxseed meal + 2 1/2 Tablespoons water, mixed together in a small bowl)

1/2 cup “vegan buttermilk” (coconut milk plus 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar, mixed together)

3 very ripe bananas, mashed with a fork 

1/2 dairy-free chocolate chips (I’m a die-hard Enjoy Life bittersweet chocolate fan!)

METHOD 

Preheat oven to 300°F. 

Grease your loaf pan with coconut oil, olive oil or vegan butter and line the base of your pan with parchment paper.

Whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Set aside.

In a mixing bowl with a paddle attachment, cream together the sugar and butter. Stir in the flax egg and then the bananas, and lastly adding the vegan buttermilk. Slowly add the dry ingredients and then the chocolate chips and mix till just incorporated to avoid over mixing.

Pour batter into greased loaf pan for about 45 minutes to 1 hour, depending on your oven. If in doubt, do the toothpick test.

An Honest Mistake

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I’ve made quite a few mistakes in my life.

Many of whom were the boys I dated. (Woof.)

A few of them were jobs. (Double woof.)

People I trusted.

Maybe a few outfit choices in my younger days.

And about a handful of some very bad haircuts.

But not all mistakes are bad. Some of my favorite mistakes often happen when I’m in the kitchen.

After a long day at work earlier this week, I was craving muffins. Looking around in my pantry I had a tart apple and some strawberries. I researched some recipes and found a gluten-free AND vegan recipe for strawberry and apple muffins. And as any person whose made a few mistakes in their past, this recipe had its own red flags.

First, it didn’t have any egg substitutes. Nor did it have enough fat. After following the recipe step by step, the consistency was quite dry. So dry that it wouldn’t even incorporate properly. I adjusted the fat content by adding some olive oil and a touch more maple syrup.

I baked off 12 of the muffins for about 30 minutes and the muffins just didn’t rise. The texture was off, a bit gritty actually. The flavor was on point, so I didn’t feel that it justified me throwing the entire batch away. Instead, I quickly went into Plan B mode and pulled the pre-baked muffin mess and greased a tart pan. Pressed the still-warm batter into the pan. Placed the crumb tart back into the oven for another 25-30 minutes. I waited till the crust was a beautiful dark golden brown and then pulled it out to cool. The resulting crumb crust was caramel-y buttery, light, sweet from the strawberries and perfectly tart from the apple.

I then prepped the cashew cheesecake batter and filled the cooled tart shell. I only placed the cheesecake in the fridge till it was just set. I topped it with freeze-dried strawberries and a dusting of powdered sugar. But you can add any topping to it. Date caramel would be amazing on this. Coconut caramel would be great as well.

Mistakes aren’t all bad, you see. This one was honestly quite delightful. And it didn’t leave me heartbroken or with a bad hair day.

Kelly Rae

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